The Unpublished Writings of Dr. Mike Brocken: I’m Looking Through You

‘I’m Looking Through You’

The audiovisual contract and collective images of Liverpool from The Magnet to Beat City (2015):

When I first received the commission from Ashgate (now part of Routledge) for TheTwenty-First Century Legacy of the Beatles: Liverpool and Popular Music Heritage Tourism, I had already completed a great deal of research on the topic …

By the time of submitting a draft to the publisher in (I think) early 2015 I had already completed a vast amount of ethnography with Beatles Story founder Mike Byrne (initially for a biography project that Mike then found difficult to complete owing to his continued live performances), and a considerable amount of case studies relating to local tour guiding and the National Trust's relationship with Liverpool. I had also disproved once and for all the Cunard Yanks > into > Beatles myth and historicised, at some length, the nascent years of Beatles tourism in the faction-ridden Liverpool of the 1970s (in other words when Liverpool City Council 'couldn't give a ****' about Beatles tourism) and I had commenced archiving and using my Beatles and Liverpool-related film collection in classes at Liverpool Hope University. In fact, all of the above proved extremely useful for my MA Beatles Popular Music & Society at the University, which was then well into its sixth year.

Practically all of this research was accepted by the editor without question; however, the one chapter returned to me as 'not required' was related to the visual imagery of Liverpool on film and TV, up to and including the national 'advent' of the Beatles in 1962. I had actually felt that this A/V material was vital in a narrative of Beatles tourism, for it displayed to the researcher how an audio-visual contract worked in creating, via the synchronisation of sound and image, so-called 'real' places full of 'real' people.

During the post-WWII era the citizens of the UK had become a nation of voyeurs, believing what they saw and heard via the powerful media forms of radio TV and film. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but Liverpool, as presented to the public on film, TV and radio was an imagined place and not one many of us locals (I was born and bred in the city) recognised! My thesis therefore was that the Beatles were unwittingly dropped into an audio-visual cauldron of affect. This preceding and contemporaneous compilation of image and sound-based semiotics effectively codified the Beatles and Liverpool in the minds of the British public (many of whom had seldom visited the city) for the next half-century (and to a certain extent it still does).

Nevertheless I had to 'take it on the chin' and remove said chapter; in my own mind leaving the text a tad bereft of how the media did not simply report upon the city (and the Beatles), but helped 'create' a specific Liverpool by and through their own devices.

Some materials from the chapter were re-used for my 2018 text concerning Gordon Stretton (co-written with Jeff Daniels) and another text presented on this site concerning the Granada TV show 'The Blues and Gospel Train' (which was published, but shortened for the Ian Inglis-edited volume Popular Music and Television in Britain) contained similar arguments.

I still like the work: it's one of those chapters that I remember writing with great enthusiasm and using good ’thick' historical research methods and approaches. Added to this were my interests in semiotics and ethnography thereby making the chapter (for me, at least) a classic example of intertextual Popular Music Studies writing; I still feel that there's a book in it!

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This research is made available for public access and peer review, but Dr Mike Brocken retains full ownership of any and all intellectual property, media resources and text, and should be formally accredited for any references to, or use of, these materials.

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